What the Bible says about the role of wives and why I disagree with the Pearls

by | How Would You Answer This?, Marriage, Raising Children | 7 comments

Can you clarify specifically what counsel and religious views of the Pearls that you disagree with? Emily G.

Doug Wilson outlines the theological views of the Pearls.

Tim Challies writes about the theological and training issues.

This blog post is about submission vs enabling.


Typically, when we talk about the role of wives, we quote the I Peter passage:

I Peter 3:1-4
1 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

But the Bible has much more to say about the role of wives.

Matthew 18:15-17
15 Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Luke 17:3-4
Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.

Acts 20:35
35 I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Romans 12:9-10, 14, 17-21
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 13:10; 14:7, 12, 19, 21
13:10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
14:7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 21 It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.

Romans 15:14
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

1 Corinthians 5:11-13
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

I Corinthians 10:24
Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.

I Corinthians 11:3-16
3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. 6 For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man is not from woman, but woman from man. 9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. 13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

I Corinthians 13:1-8
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.

Galatians 4:16
16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

Galatians 6:1
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Galatians 6: 9-10
9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Ephesians 4:15, 25
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 25Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.

Ephesians 5:1-13, 22-24, 33
1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Philippians 2:4
4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Philippians 4:5
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Colossians 3:12-18
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

I Thessalonians 5:14-15
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

II Thessalonians 3:7-13
7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.

I Timothy 3:11
11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

I Timothy 5:8
8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

II Timothy 2:24-26
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

II Timothy 4:2
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Titus 2:3-5
3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Titus 3:1-7
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Hebrews 3:12-13
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 12:14-15
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.

James 3:17-18
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 4:17
17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

James 5:19-20
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

I Peter 3:1-11
1 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. 7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For “He who would love life, And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.

I John 1:6
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

I John 2:3-6
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

I John 3:18
18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

Jude 16-19, 22-23
16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. 17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. 19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. 22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Enabling a brother’s sin is not acting in love.


  1. Nancy Eason

    This is a wonderful collection of verses about marital and other relationships in the church. However, I do want to defend the Pearls on this issue of abusive husbands. Michael & Debbie distinctly teach that if a husband is abusive to his wife or children, the wife should report him to the authorities and testify against him in court so that he will receive the appropriate punishment as well as to protect herself and her children:
    “A Command Man who has gone bad is likely to be abusive. It is important to remember that much of how a Command man reacts depends on his wife’s reverence toward him. When a Command Man (lost or saved) is treated with honor and reverence, a good help meet will find that her man will be wonderfully protective and supportive. In most marriages, the strife is not because the man is cruel or evil; it is because he expects obedience, honor, and reverence, and is not getting it, and thus he reacts badly. When a wife plays her part as a help meet, the Command Man will respond differently. Of course, there are a few men who are so cruel and violent that even when the wife is a proper help meet, he will still physically abuse her or the children. In such cases, it would be the duty of the wife to alert the authorities so that they might become the arm of the Lord to do justice.”

    The Pearls also teach that after the husband is in jail, the wife should not divorce him but should continue in relationship with him, writing letters and visiting as often as she can while he serves his term. The hope is that he will truly repent and be saved and able to resume their marriage upon his release. So this is still a hard teaching for a lot of people, but nowhere do they suggest that a woman should tolerate physical abuse of any kind.

    So many people have been helped by the Pearl’s ministry that I would regret seeing people ignore all their materials because of a misunderstanding on this issue. Given what our Lord commands us to do in Matthew 18 above, it seems that having the Pearl’s present their side of the issue would be the most appropriate way to handle this.

    Thank you for your newsletters! I find them stimulating and encouraging.

    In Christ,
    Nancy Eason

    • LaurieBluedorn

      The difference I have with their teaching comes from their view of what they determine is abuse and what the wife should tolerate before calling for help. Their definition of abuse (both verbal and physical) is different from my definition.

      If a husband is consistently verbally abusive to his wife or children, help should be called. That is the loving thing to do. Help should be called early in the marriage. This is loving your husband. Tolerating/hiding/covering up/enabling verbal abuse is not the loving thing to do and is not loving your husband.

    • LaurieBluedorn

      Again, it all hinges on the definitions. What is the definition of abuse?

  2. Trina Riepe

    Sorry, but our secular courts could care less about most of this abuse, ESPECIALLY when it is in ‘Christian’ homes. Even physical violence rarely concludes with a man in jail and his wife ‘visiting him’. We have two separate but overlapping issues – physical abuse and wrong use of biblical authority that enables a man’s pride to flourish and woman’s spirit to wither. I don’t have the answers outside of Christ – and much prayer. But an open discussion in the churches that doesn’t start and end with ‘she needs to just submit’ would be welcomed. We are called to suffer for Christ, to lay down our lives, but what does that LOOK like in practical terms to the family? When does a wife seek help? How do the leaders of the Church intervene Biblically? What can we do to help our young men and boys better understand their role as Christ-like servants to their families? How can we better prepare our young couples for marriage so they start out with right understanding? This compilation of Scripture is the first step…

  3. Alinda

    Its not so easy as it seems… i’ve been married for 22 years. God gave me/us 7 children. I married young, got pregnant at 18, lost the child in a miscarriage, at 20 the first child, did not learn for a job, took care of the children. It has been a big struggle over all these years. When i tried to get help, no one!! cared for me: they didn’t see the problem, he was handsome, charming, but a complete other person at home (tried to let me do abortion from 2 kids, nr 4 and 5)(latent and manifest domestic violence)…i fell in love with somebody else, fought against it, took help from church. My husband was shocked, he wanted more space and turned away from me. I overcame the ‘love’ (with the other man), but the separation took place… so i got weak another time, one year later, and got pregnant with twins. It took a long, long time to forgive myself. I kept the children and again he was the hero:by taking the children as his own, loved them also even more than his ‘own’ children. Nobody listened seriously about the home situation, till he hit me the last time and i called the cops. In between i read the book of the pearls and my husband told me to read more, so i would become better (every one was wrong, only he wasn’t…) We went through 5 marriage course/helps… he had got the cd from michael ‘only man’, but didn’t hear it till the end. And all the time his comments:’don’t you have to read your book? To learn to be a better girl?’ Ugh. At the end from our marriagd he’s been 7 weeks in a ‘resthome’, with physologs and therapists and i was willing to wait, but it didn’t turn out good 🙁 last august we devorced, he lives whith his new girlfriend and one daughter of us, in another house, we’re not on speaking terms, he doesn’t pay for all his children, i still need to deal with agression (other doorlocks, dents in the door of my car, etc.) I am better off yet, without husband, job and less money, but having it all together with the children that still are at home and my faith in God: he is the only one for me!!God loves me! Only He is worthy to be praised 😉 so i may rest in him and have peace.

  4. Stephanie

    I think the blog post you posted has a very well balanced and thought through response to this issue and these scriptures are great. Sadly there is a teaching occurring in many churches that a woman is supposed to bear up under abuse unless she is being physically assaulted for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of Christ. Many churches dismiss psychological emotional and verbal abuse when it is a very real and damaging phenomenon. It doesn’t just destroy wives mentally and physically it also makes the gospel unappealing,mis-represents God and shows the children in the home it is OK to fake religion and never truly repent of sin and turn to the Lord since they witness their father repeatedly violating scripture with no consequences. The husband is also harmed by being allowed to carry out this damaging sin and the children placed in danger because abuse nearly always escalates. It also puts the wife in danger and at risk of losing her children if she submits to a physically abusive husband because contrary to popular belief the legal authorities do take abuse seriously. Even if a husband is just punching walls in front of the children it is considered comestic violence and dangerous for the children. I have personally experienced where a church counseled me to submit under abuse and if I would change he would change and they dismissed my requests for help because if sin I had struggled with in the past. I am so glad to see Christians taking a stand and recognizing this harmful trend. There is a sermon series on domestic violence on audio sermon.com that analyzes the sin of abuse and the church’s current response to it and I highly recommend it to any lady out there who is dealing with this problem. Also martha leaces book the excellent wife deals with thjs erroneous teaching of submittinf ti abuse and how ti handle your husbands sin in a godly way. Women have legal rights and no where in the bible does it support the perspective we are to submit to abusive husbands if anything it actually speaks against that. Romans 13 about submitting to local authorities comes to mind. Your husband is violating that when he abuses you. Or the many passaged that encourage believers to lovingly rebuke each others sin. Gods word is so rich with encouragement for women to defend their children and themselves while exhibiting a godly attitude it is an excellent source for any woman suffering in this way.God is also faithful to provide for his daughters in these situations it isn’t always easy but it is worth it to resist submitting wrongfully out of fear. Thank you for posting these.

  5. Emma

    Few people recognise that a husband’s use of pornography is abuse, but it is so very destructive of the marriage and leaves a wife feeling so helplessly violated, that it can’t be overlooked or left unrebuked. I wish I had known how to handle my husband’s porn usage (“addiction” is gross excusation and invalid) early on – if it had been seriously adressed and properly rebuked, it might have prevented him from escalating into an affair. Pornography is nothing other than adultery, but I was confused, because I was told it is like looking at “art”, though in my soul I felt the tear down of our relationship. (My parents hardly ever talked about this when we were growing up, but I knew they would condemn it). I only found out just what goes on with a man when he watches those images and just how much he used to do it, after our marriage broke down – I only caught him 3 times in 15 years, but it must have been a regular thing from the beginning. If I knew that, I most definitely would have acted much differently and got help the first time. I should have followed 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, Matthew 18:15-17 and Ephesians 4:15, 25. We did not get divorced, mainly because I couldn’t do that to our 5 children and my husband did repent and turn away from this sin, but after 7 years the wounds are still there, the memories still so painful. We are kind of happy now and I have forgiven him, but I think it is too late; after all that happened, complete restoration of our relationship is impossible. I am now also paranoid about my sons’ future marriages (even though the oldest is only 13). I am trying to teach them the right way without raising curiosity and I am praying for them and their future wives, nothing more I can do.


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